New York- New York’s ban on gay marriage was struck down yesterday by a Manhattan judge, possibly clearing the way for same-sex couples in the city to legally wed next month.
In her decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that gay couples are entitled to the “same fundamental right to follow their hearts and publicly commit to a lifetime partnership with the person of their choosing.”
“Simply put, marriage is viewed by society as the utmost expression of a couple’s commitment and love,” she wrote. “Plaintiffs may now seek this ultimate expression through a civil marriage.”
Ling-Cohan stayed her decision for 30 days, giving the city time to implement or appeal the ruling – which could block same-sex marriages indefinitely.
The city has not decided whether it will appeal, and Mayor Bloomberg, who is facing reelection this year, had no comment on the ruling.
“We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options,” said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the city’s top lawyer.
Ling-Cohan’s decision, which only affects New York City, is the first in the state legalizing gay marriage.
Last year, state judges in Albany and Rockland County decided against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses – making it all the more likely that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will ultimately decide the law.
The suit was brought by the Lambda Defense Fund on behalf of five same-sex couples, two of them with children.
Jo-Ann Shain, 52, and Mary Jo Kennedy, 49, of Brooklyn, who have been together for 23 years, were urged by their 16-year-old daughter, Aliya, to sue for the right to marry.
“I feel very excited. They deserve it,” said Aliya, who is Shain’s biological and Kennedy’s adopted daughter.
“They taught me that a relationship is based on love,” Aliya said.
Like the other four couples, Daniel Hernandez and Nevin Cohen tried to get a marriage license at the City Clerk’s office, but was turned away.
“I found myself angered at the injustice of being denied a basic right and stung by the rejection of my desire to marry Nevin,” Hernandez said in court papers. The ruling left all five couples feeling ecstatic.
“We’re getting hitched,” said Curtis Woolbright, 37, of Harlem, as he embraced his partner of four years, Daniel Reyes, 31.
Woolbright’s black father and white mother had to move to California in 1966 to get married because interracial marriage was illegal in Texas, where they had lived.
“My mom told me, she said, ‘I had to fight for my love and now you have to fight for yours,'” Woolbright said.
Ling-Cohan found that while the state’s Domestic Relations Law does not expressly ban same-sex marriage, sections of it imply that the legislature’s assumption is that marriage will be between a man and a woman.
Because that assumption has been cited in blocking same-sex marriages in the state, the judge declared sections of the law unconstitutional. She said the words husband, wife, groom and bride in the Domestic Relations Law should be construed to mean spouse.
Gov. Pataki blasted the ruling, saying that the courts should not be blazing new trails in state matrimonial law.
“New York’s marriage laws are clear that marriage is between a man and a woman and any changes to our laws should be made through the legislative process, not by a judge or local officials,” said Pataki spokesman Kevin Quinn.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer had no comment, though he has in other challenges to the statute held that state law bars same sex marriage.